Ten years after the Cicero riots came an award-winning film called The City of Necessity.

Mid-century Chicago was far from a harmonious place. Through the first half of the century, thousands of African-Americans moved into the city from the South. Whites, often angrily, resisted the changing demographics, crassly referring to local neighborhoods as "good" (white), "going" (changing), or "gone" (black). That kind of attitude was demonstrated perhaps at its worst when thousands of rioters in 1951 attempted to stop a black family from moving into a new apartment in the industrial suburb of Cicero. 

Ten years after the Cicero riots came an award-winning documentary called The City of Necessity, produced cooperatively by the Chicago City Missionary Society. In it, we see a Chicago that, despite a spree of new public housing construction, was far from solving its persistent poverty and racial tensions.

Earlier this week, Chicago architecture writer Lee Bey uncovered the 52-year old documentary on his WBEZ blog, pointing out a quote in the film from then-Mayor Richard J. Daley in which (astoundingly) he says, "we have no ghetto and we have no negro ghetto." The documentary, ripe with devastating imagery from Chicago's impoverished African-American communities and its mostly substandard housing, poignantly cuts to a girl on a swing that appears ready to bring down the doorway holding it up as Daley finishes his blunt, and clearly untrue statement.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A line of stores in Westport, Connecticut
    Equity

    Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing

    In southwest Connecticut, the gap between rich and poor is wider than anywhere else in the country. Invisible walls created by local zoning boards and the state government block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.

  2. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  3. A woman walks down a city street across from a new apartment and condominium building.
    Design

    How Housing Supply Became the Most Controversial Issue in Urbanism

    New research has kicked off a war of words among urban scholars over the push for upzoning to increase cities’ housing supply.

  4. A photo of police officers sealing off trash bins prior to the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo in 2015.
    Life

    Carefully, Japan Reconsiders the Trash Can

    The near-absence of public garbage bins in cities like Tokyo is both a security measure and a reflection of a cultural aversion to littering.

  5. Design

    Bringing New Life to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lost Designs

    “I would love to model all of Wright's work, but it is immense,” says architect David Romero. “I do not know if during all my life I will have time.”